Jinan: Brazilian star Paulinho believes his experience at playing in the elite level of the game helped him step up when it matters after his two goals against Shandong Luneng helped Guangzhou Evergrande into the quarter-finals of the 2019 AFC Champions League.
Former FC Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho is no stranger to the grandest of stages with FIFA World Cup campaigns and UEFA Champions League appearances in his career so far.
And, indeed, Paulinho memorably announced himself to Asia's football fans with an incredible goal in the 2015 AFC Champions League quarter-finals.
So it may have come as little surprise that on Tuesday night he was once more of pivotal importance to Guangzhou.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg, Paulinho netted the opener in Jinan to put the visitors in the driving seat only for Shandong to respond with a pair of strikes to take the tie to extra-time.
The hosts then went ahead on aggregate for the first time, but once more it was Paulinho who stepped up to hammer home a tremendous free-kick to see the match into a penalty shoot-out.
"I am thankful that I have been able to score goals at crucial times for the team," said the 30-year-old.
Round of 16 2nd Leg: Shandong Luneng FC v Guangzhou Evergrande FC
"I suppose it may be because I have played in many major tournaments and big games previously.
"In those kind of environments, you need to commit your full ability in these major games. I am just glad that I could take part in this big match and help my teammates."
The result ended Guangzhou's run of successive defeats by Chinese opposition in the AFC Champions League knockout stage.
GAME-OVER | Shandong Luneng ?? 3-2 (5-6 on penalties) Guangzhou Evergrande ?? (Aggregate 4-4)
Guangzhou prove the coolest from the spot as they head into the quarter-finals after winning the penalty shootout! #SDLvGUA #ACL2019 pic.twitter.com/6PKVBcSqSR
— AFC Champions League (@TheAFCCL) June 25, 2019
And, believes Paulinho, the tough opposition Shandong provided can help harden the team in the matches to come.
"I think we had a very difficult game and we needed to put in 120 minutes of good football," he said.
"In my opinion, we deserved to go through. I believe this experience can help our team mature and prepare for the next stage of the tournament."